A terrific Australian Open final indicated that Iga Swiatek will soon have company at the top of the women’s game.
By winning her first Grand Slam title, Aryna Sabalenka will equal her career-best ranking of world number two, but she will still be more than 4,000 points behind Swiatek.
The Polish’s consistency, as well as her French Open and US Open titles, have given her a leg up on the rest in 2022, but she has plenty of points to defend this year and could find herself stumped .
It was not so much Sabalenka’s triumph at Melbourne Park as the manner of her 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina that impressed so much.
It was a contest of huge shots but also of control, with Sabalenka amassing almost twice as many winners as unforced errors and crushing 17 aces, many at crucial moments.
The 24-year-old has long been known as a great talent, but she has risen to a different level by maturing emotionally and learning to maintain a positive mindset.
Swiatek remains by far the best player on clay but, on faster surfaces, Sabalenka and Rybakina should have the advantage.
While Sabalenka is another new women’s champion, she has certainly served her time, falling three times in the Grand Slam semi-finals, and, having now made the breakthrough, she wants more.
“First of all, it’s a bit of a relief to have a Grand Slam tournament,” she told wtatennis.com. “Second, it’s like a drug. I really want it again.
“It really motivates me a lot. I want more and I want to become a better player. I know there are still a lot of things to work on to be better on the court.
Sabalenka believes inner doubts were behind the emotional extremes she displayed on the pitch, and it was in the face of the biggest crisis of her career, last year’s yelps, that finally allowed her to to believe.
It’s like a drug. I really want it again. It really motivates me a lot.
“I always had this weird feeling that when people came to me and asked me for a signature, I was like, ‘Why are you asking for a signature? I’m nobody. I’m a player. I don’t have a big name. slam,’ and all that,” she said.
“I just changed how I feel. I started to respect myself more. I started to understand that actually I’m here because I work really hard and I’m actually a good player.
“Just understanding that I’m a good player, I can handle a lot of emotions, a lot of things on the court. Whenever I had a tough time on the court, I just reminded myself that I’m good enough to handle it all.
Rybakina was unable to repeat her triumph at Wimbledon but showed once again that she is both an extremely talented tennis player and also someone whose naturally calm demeanor makes her very well suited for the big stage. .
The 23-year-old Kazakh also has time on her side and will make a late top-10 debut on Monday – a position she would have already held had Wimbledon offered ranking points.
She hopes she can be a regular challenger at the slams, saying: “Well, if it’s going to be like that, that’s great. Of course, that’s the goal, to be in the second week of all Grand Slam tournaments, play finals.
“Now I have more confidence, of course, even after this final. I just need to work hard, like I did in pre-season and in fact throughout the years, to be in good shape. health, and the results are sure to come.